Better Church Governance is Violating Universi Dominici Gregis

and the penalty is a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.

Pope Saint John Paul II wrote the rules governing each papal conclave in the document: Universi Dominici Gregis. Those rules are still in effect, and they include a prohibition against individuals or groups attempting to influence a future papal election.

The group “Better Church Governance” is in open violation of those rules. Here are some quotes from the Facebook page of BCG:

“Cardinals have commented that accurately knowing the backgrounds of the other cardinal electors is the most precarious part of each papal conclave. The mission of our flagship project, The Red Hat Report, is to change this by researching and publicizing full dossiers on each cardinal elector—their responses to abuse, their patronage and financial ties, and theological and pastoral priorities. We think of it as the Catholic equivalent to the Federalist Society’s research on Supreme Court nominees.”

“We will create The Red Hat Report before the next papal conclave. This report provides a brief introductory dossier for each cardinal, noting their handling of abuse and corruption, both sexual and fiscal, and their theological and pastoral priorities. We will then classify the level of evidence for abuse/corruption for each cardinal-elector, based on scores from a variety of categories considered. Such a score promotes a clearer understanding of their record of governance and fidelity. Lastly, BCG will publish a book and website with a summation of evidence of each cardinal’s connection to scandal and abuse for one-stop access for all the cardinal electors responsible for selecting the next Holy Father.”

BCG intends their publications to be used by Cardinal-electors in making their selection for “the next Holy Father”. This includes publishing accusations against Cardinals of the Church: “their handling of abuse and corruption, both sexual and fiscal….” No group of lay persons has the right to stand in judgment over the Cardinals, to investigate them, usurping the role of a law enforcement agency, to judge them, usurping the roles of judge and jury, and to attempt to influence which Cardinal might be elected as Roman Pontiff, usurping the roles of Cardinal electors.

The arrogance of this project is astounding. They go so far as to present “a summation of evidence” and give “scores from a variety of categories”. They have appointed themselves to a role over the Cardinals who will elect the next Pope. They have no authorization from the Church. They are openly violating Church laws governing preparations for future conclaves:

Universi Dominici Gregis: “79. Confirming the prescriptions of my Predecessors, I likewise forbid anyone, even if he is a Cardinal, during the Pope’s lifetime and without having consulted him, to make plans concerning the election of his successor, or to promise votes, or to make decisions in this regard in private gatherings.”

Not only Cardinals, but all persons are forbidden from making plans or decisions regarding the election of the Pope’s successor. They are making decisions in regard to the election of the successor of the Roman Pontiff in private gatherings. But it gets worse, my emphases added:

“80. In the same way, I wish to confirm the provisions made by my Predecessors for the purpose of excluding any external interference in the election of the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, in virtue of holy obedience and under pain of excommunication latae sententiae, I again forbid each and every Cardinal elector, present and future, as also the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and all other persons taking part in the preparation and carrying out of everything necessary for the election, to accept under any pretext whatsoever, from any civil authority whatsoever, the task of proposing the veto or the so-called exclusiva, even under the guise of a simple desire, or to reveal such either to the entire electoral body assembled together or to individual electors, in writing or by word of mouth, either directly and personally or indirectly and through others, both before the election begins and for its duration. I intend this prohibition to include all possible forms of interference, opposition and suggestion whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree, or any individual or group, might attempt to exercise influence on the election of the Pope.

The above law includes any and all individuals and groups who might “attempt to exercise influence on the election of the Pope”, and it includes “all possible forms of interference”. That is exactly what BCG is doing. Their work is specifically excluded by Universi Dominici Gregis under pain of automatic excommunication.

Since this attempt is well underway, and is very extensive, it constitutes a clear formal violation of the rules of Universi Dominici Gregis in n. 79 and 80. The leaders and participants of Better Church Governance are automatically excommunicated, including Janet Smith, professor of ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

What is even more troubling that the fact that a group of Catholics would organize themselves so as to violate Universi Dominici Gregis and influence future conclaves, is the failure of the conservative Catholic subculture to raise even a mild objection to their work. Conservative Catholic media outlets often publish schismatic or heretical material, as long as it is from conservatives. And they refuse to criticize their own. It is even the case that some of the articles published in Catholic media are highly secular in their point of view. BCG sees itself as similar to the Federal Society (trying to influence future SCOTUS picks). It’s a secular point of view.

They show no confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in choosing each Roman Pontiff. They think to usurp the role of the Spirit in that regard, so that instead of the Cardinal electors being guided by the prevenient grace of God, the providence of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit, they would instead be guided by “dossiers” containing accusations against Church leaders from an organization with no authority in secular society and none in the Church as well. Their work is not only a grave violation of Universi Dominici Gregis which incurs for them an automatic excommunication, it is also a type of blasphemy against the Spirit, in that they would think to push the Spirit aside and substitute their sinful work for His grace.

Who will be the next Pope? Someone not in any of their dossiers. The Spirit will pick a Roman Pontiff for the Church, and BCG will be ignored like the chair of pestilence that they are.

[Psalm 1]
{1:1} Blessed is the man who has not followed the counsel of the impious, and has not remained in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the chair of pestilence.
{1:2} But his will is with the law of the Lord, and he will meditate on his law, day and night.
{1:3} And he will be like a tree that has been planted beside running waters, which will provide its fruit in its time, and its leaf will not fall away, and all things whatsoever that he does will prosper.
{1:4} Not so the impious, not so. For they are like the dust that the wind casts along the face of the earth.
{1:5} Therefore, the impious will not prevail again in judgment, nor sinners in the council of the just.
{1:6} For the Lord knows the way of the just. And the path of the impious will pass away.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
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* My translation of the Bible
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4 Responses to Better Church Governance is Violating Universi Dominici Gregis

  1. Kate says:

    Right! Let’s just blindly follow the Pope! What can possibly go wrong?

    • Ron Conte says:

      That’s quite a non-sequitur, Kate. The rule against interfering in the election of the next Pope by a conclave is not a blind following of the Pope, since the election occurs when there is no Pope in office. We are trusting in the Holy Spirit, and in the successors to the Apostles. And we follow the Pope out of faith in Christ, which is never blind. All of a sudden, conservatives are speaking like Protestants.

  2. Alex says:

    All those critics of Fr Jorge (as he liked to be called in Buenos Aires) don’t understand he is their best chance to pacify with Jesus Christ and His Church. Any other in his position wouldn’t tolerate such a strong opposition for so long time. Pope Francis gives them free speech that contradicts not only his teaching but the entire idea of papacy…and instead of removing them or so, he dreams for the moment he would step down and buy pizza unnoticed…Quite a humility….And if he is to be martyred, he would certainly be canonized…for the terror of the pride arrogant self righteous ones who pretend only they know how the Gospel must be read.

    I agree the conservatives grow increasingly Protestant, while many Protestants and Orthodox are much closer to the successor of Peter and may receive the grace to be in union with him at the time determined by God.

    It is no surprise Our Lady shed tears in so many apparitions and miraculous statues.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes, a Pope Saint Pius X certainly would not tolerate this type of behavior. If they get the conservative Pope they are longing for, surprise, he will probably excommunicate many of them for attacking his predecessor. I also expect the next conservative Pope to change Canon law to exclude this type of behavior.

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